Appalling as it is, there's a symbolic coherence to bull-fighting. The bull is a monster, a tonne of grunting muscle with feet that could turn you into cottage cheese, and horns that could turn you into Swiss. When a lone matador steps into the ring, he assumes the role of a showboating David to the bull's hulking Goliath, and when he plunges the final ribanded sword into his opponent's heart his achievement is one of courage over brawn.
In reality, of course, bull-fighting is the spectacle of a man slowly butchering a bewildered ruminant, but the symbolism is sound.
Less comprehensible is the festival of the Running of the Bulls, or 'San Fermines', which takes place annually in the town of Pamplona. Put simply, it involves releasing a herd of incensed bulls into the streets and then running away from them. If bullfighting exposes man's barbarism, the Running of the Bulls exposes his remarkable stupidity.
Bull Run Fever is a simulation of this activity. Using either the sensibly entitled 'Expert' character, or the less obviously relevant 'German Girl,' you need to survive a chase up eight narrow Spanish streets in order to attain the reward of Survival mode, whilst picking up each of the letters in the word 'fermines' in the various levels to unlock a third 'Mystery' character.
The levels are set in isometric cobbled streets strewn with detritus, some of which helps and some of which hinders. You start just ahead of a stampede and automatically run up and to the right. At your natural pace, the bulls quickly catch up with and destroy you, so to survive you need to find a way of boosting your speed.
There are several ways to do this. Most obviously, there are mopeds lying around that you can commandeer for short periods, and rockets that you can mount to power yourself ahead of the animals you've managed to enrage.
These are relatively few and far between, however, and for the most part success relies on collecting the beer glasses, flowers, and bouquets with which festival goers have littered the streets. Each of these items gives only a tiny boost, but they're generally arranged in a line for you to follow. The game's trick is that sometimes these lines lead you astray, into roadworks and patches of cement, or away from the bonus letters you need to collect.
To buy yourself a little extra time, you can run across barrels of wine and tip them into the path of the approaching bulls, who automatically become inebriated and hang back to recover. Aside from tiny speed boosts and momentary respites, however, the bulls are rarely more than a few screen millimetres from you, and Bull Run Fever's pace is relentless.
You can jump with '8', and while this helps you to clear flat obstacles, it won't get you over many raised barriers. The game sweeps you along automatically, and if you find yourself borne into a patch of roadworks without a rocket to power you out, you might as well make your peace with a violent death. For that reason, success depends partly on playing and memorising the levels.
Each level is more or less the same as the last, in terms both of layout and graphics, and you'll rattle through all eight of them in minutes. Visually and practically, Bull Run Fever is a dime store arcade romp with its sights set firmly on adequacy.
It passes half an hour, but, alas, playing Bull Run Fever is far more akin to a stroll through a field where some cows are sleeping than the maniacal pursuit after which it models itself.